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Small Business | LEARNING CURVE: JAM PRINTING

Fit to Print : 19-Year-Olds Composed Under Pressure

May 07, 1996

Javier Nunez and Angel Ruvalcava started JAM Printing in Los Angeles while taking an entrepreneurship class in high school. The two 19-year-olds have learned that despite their young age, customers will take them seriously if they operate their business in a professional manner. Nunez was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.

I've always wanted a business of my own. A lot of people I talked to said I should go out and work for somebody else to learn the basics, but I don't think that's really necessary. If you really want it, you can do it.

So when my high school, Manual Arts, offered an entrepreneur training class, I signed up. The class was for students who wanted to start a business right away. They taught us about marketing, being able to speak to people on the phone, doing research and presentations, accounting, getting a business license, filing for taxes and things like that.

Angel was in the class with me. We both learned about printing at school, so we decided to work together to start an offset printing business. We started off with $200 we had pooled together.

After the class was over, a lot of the kids just let their businesses die, but we kept on doing it. We're both taking classes at Los Angeles Trade Tech College to learn more about business and management techniques.

We print business cards, letterheads, envelopes, fliers, booklets and posters. We rent four presses and we use our own Macintosh Power PCs.

People are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt even though we are young. Once they give us that chance, we know we have to do a good job or they won't come back. When they see that our work is good, they realize we're not joking around.

Sometimes, when we go to an office to drop off a job or meet with a customer, people look at us like, "Who are you?" They can't believe we could really have a business.

That's why having a professional appearance is so important when you are young. If we're going to an office, we go in there looking decent. We know that if we're wearing baggy or messy clothes, we can turn them off in that first look. So we always wear polo shirts with our logo on them and Dockers.

We need to talk to our customers in proper language and be careful not to use any slang. That way we come off as being serious and really wanting their business.

Our prices are even with our competitors'. You have to be sure not to charge too much, but we also don't want to charge less than other people just because we are younger. If we charged less, people might think our services were less good.

You can't be shy, especially if you're young. If you want the business, you have to take it. There is so much competition out there that you have to be really strong and aggressive.

Being young has been an advantage, not a disadvantage. People look at us and say, "Wow." They admire us for going after our goals. I also think a lot of them want to help out people who are doing things they wish they had done.

On the business opportunities for young entrepreneurs . . .

"People are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt even though we are young. . . . When they see that our work is good, they realize we're not joking around."

On the importance of having a professional look . . .

"We know that if we're wearing baggy or messy clothes, we can turn them off in that first look."

On the advantages of being young . . .

People "admire us for going after our goals. I also think a lot of them want to help out people who are doing things they wish they had done."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

Company: JAM Printing

Owners: Javier Nunez and Angel Ruvalcava

Nature of business: printing company

Location: South-Central Los Angeles

Year founded: 1995

Number of employees: two

Annual sales: expecting $9,000 this year

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